We celebrate Italian literature in Ireland in 2022 with two authors who both rode the twentieth century’s wave of political and social changes, and who had similar preoccupations – yet produced extremely divergent literary work.
Pier Paolo Pasolini, born one hundred years ago in a rural part of northern Italy, described and exposed the waning of traditional values in society, using a hard, contemporary style. He moved from neorealistic representations to dystopic depictions, in work that ranges from novels to short stories, from poetry to cinema, from theatre to journalism, from works in Italian to others employing dialects. He openly criticised the hyper-modernisation of the fifties, which slowly enveloped the ‘little world of the past’ that characterised Italy at the time. Dino Buzzati was a generation older than Pasolini. He died fifty years ago, at the climax of his writing career, which began towards the end of the 1920s as a journalist. Perhaps it is precisely his membership of the ‘lost’ post-First World War generation that defined his literary work, which is mostly averse to political commitment and historical commentary and prone instead to a ‘postmodern’ flair. In his stories, any sign of the present and its contradictions was craftily camouflaged by metaphors and literary motifs: a peculiarity that often gained him comparisons to Kafka.
What can we gain by revisiting the life and work of these two great writers in 2022? Primarily their social engagement, which was a vital source of inspiration for both, mostly geared towards giving voice and worth to the forgotten and the exploited. Additionally, their reevaluation of the roots of Italian popular culture and the deeds of everyday heroes, as well as the rediscovery of fantasy as an important feature of their work. In Buzzati, and further back in Pasolini, we relive our grandparents’ ways of thinking and of living, the anxieties they had to face, the small rewards that made their existence joyful.
I’m confident that, from this perspective, Italy and Ireland will find common ground, as these two countries might not share the great landmarks of History with a capital H, but they do share the historic struggles of their populations and the emotional challenges of history.
By Marco Gioacchini
Director, Italian Cultural Institute Dublin
Buy books from The Italian Riveter through the European Literature Network’s The Italian Riveter.